What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

373 - A Map of the Land of Books

April 8, 2009, 5:59 PM


This map by German illustrator Alphons Woelfle (1938) shows the extent and the divisions of Bücherland (the Land of Books). The Land consists of about half a dozen distinct territories, most of which are explicitly named: Leserrepublik (Reader’s Republic), Vereinigte Buchhandelsstaaten (United States of Booksellers), Recensentia (a realm for Reviewers), Makulaturia (Waste Paper Land), and Poesia (Poetry). The capital of the US of B is the city of Officina (Latin for workshop, and the origin of our ‘office’; the name seems remarkably unremarkable. Possibly there is an old reference or a German word-joke here we’re not getting).

Plotting out imagined places on a map as if they were “real” countries is a favourite trope in curious cartography. The artificial equation of place and meaning allows for double-entendres and other humorous leaps of the imagination on which this allegorical form of cartography thrives. As a sub-genre of cartography, it has been around since at least La carte de tendre, an 18th-century French map of love’s topography (discussed in entry #245 of this blog). Other examples previously discussed include a Map on Temperance (#258) or a German map of the Empire of Love (#59).

This map was possibly commissioned by the Heimeran Verlag (publishing house) of Munich, a frequent employer of Mr Woelfle’s artisanship – although no information could be found relating to the specific circumstances of this map. One can only presume that it illustrated a book about books, or more precisely, a book about publishing. The look and feel of the map is definitely older than its mid-20th-century age; in a positive case of antiquarianism (i.e. lending something respectability by increasing its age), it has been made to resemble the maps of earlier times (17th, 18th century, I’d say).

Many thanks to Paul K. (of the brilliant BibliOdyssey) for the map, found in the digital archives of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

PS – I had written up an extensive overview of all areas of the Land of Books, discussing in depth some of the more meaningful ‘place-names’ on the map, but lost all of that while uploading the picture. I did plan to ask anyone who has some insight into the double entendres used to contribute their views… So please feel free to comment!


373 - A Map of the Land of ...

Newsletter: Share: